US Food Sovereignty Alliance recognizes Palestinian and Washington state groups’ work for food justice

Members of UAWC

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance will award its 2014 Food Sovereignty Prize to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) of Palestine and Community to Community Development (C2C) of Bellingham, Washington. The ceremony takes place in Des Moines on Oct. 15 and recognizes both organization’s courage and commitment to community-led efforts to end injustice in their communities. US Food Sovereignty Alliance notes that these groups both advocate for communities whose human rights to food, land and life are in constant violation.

UAWC works with farming and fishing families in Palestine’s occupied West Bank and Gaza. UAWC, a Palestinian small farmers’ movement, was formed in response to the socio-political conditions that Palestinian farmers were facing and now continue to face. Because of Israeli occupation policies, Palestinian farmers are unable to sell produce at markets, cannot access the sea to fish, and face the confiscation and destruction of their land and water to make way for illegal settlements. Besides working for recognition of Palestinians’ rights to food, UAWC also builds solutions in the communities, from seed banks to cooperatives to extension services for farmers, works for the rights of women, and coordinates humanitarian relief.

C2C works with indigenous Mexican immigrant farm worker communities in Washington State. It is “led by women of color that have lived the reality that U.S. history reveals; that people of color, women, and poor and low income communities have been excluded from the promise of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ so eloquently expressed in our great country’s Declaration of Independence.” In particular, C2C works with migrant farm worker communities in Washington State whose families are indigenous to Mexico with deep agricultural traditions. They are using their skills, knowledge, and culture to produce food for the U.S., but face the structural violence of deportation, detention, firings, and poverty and whose rights to food, land, freedom, and respect are constantly violated.Both organizations are being honored for their work to reclaim their human right to food through food sovereignty, the democratic recognition of full human rights, and for their commitment to the leadership of those most impacted by the policies that produce hunger.

“These organizations represent communities fighting for their rights and against the forces that make their struggles invisible. The Food Sovereignty Prize shows how food sovereignty is the path toward a just society,” said Kathy Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition, member of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.

By honoring these two distinguished organizations, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance and its 32 member organizations reaffirm that food sovereignty is the solution to end structural inequality and violence expressed in hunger and poverty and debunk the myth that growing more food will end hunger. “The honorees of this year’s Food Sovereignty Prize should remind people that, as the farm labor leader Cesar Chavez said, ‘Our struggle is not about grapes or lettuce, it is about people,’” said Alison Cohen, WhyHunger, member of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance. “This year’s honorees also remind us that hunger exists because of an unjust food system that denies communities their basic human right to food, land and a living wage, not because people don’t know how to grow crops or aren’t working.”

With a handful of international agribusinesses controlling 75 percent of the world’s seeds, 20 percent of the world’s food retail, and over 50 percent of the world’s livestock, the almost 1 billion people that the United Nations estimates to be hungry are suffering because their livelihoods as food producers are in constant threat by land and water grabs and the corporate consolidation of seeds and fishing rights – not because the world isn’t producing enough food. “The goal of the Food Sovereignty Prize is to elevate the issue of self-determination and to bring public attention to grassroots struggles defending community autonomy. We all need to express our opposition to violent military occupation and corporate resource grabbing whether it occurs in Haiti, Palestine or Tanzania, as well as closer to home in south central Los Angeles, Detroit, or indigenous territories across the Great Lakes. These critical social justice and human rights issues are quite ignored by the ‘powers that be’ which created the World Food Prize,” said John Peck, Family Farm Defenders, a member of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.

The USFSA represents a network of food producers and labor, environmental, faith-based, social justice and anti-hunger advocacy organizations. Additional supporters of the 2014 Food Sovereignty Prize include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Des Moines, Occupy the World Food Prize, and the Small Planet Fund, along with media sponsor EcoWatch.

The Food Sovereignty Prize ceremony will be held on October 15th in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Iowa Historical Building at 7 pm Central Time. For more information about the ceremony, event updates and registration, background on food sovereignty and the Food Sovereignty Prize winners, visit www.foodsovereigntyprize.org. Also, visit the Food Sovereignty Prize on Facebook (facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyPrize) and join the conversation on Twitter (#foodsovprize).

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